Apr 03

“Cinderella”: The Newest Incarnation and Its Messages

This year’s remake of Cinderella featuring Lily James as (Cinder)Ella, Cate Blanchett as the Wicked Stepmother, and Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, is currently a top box office hit as well as a critical favorite.

What interesting new take necessitated this latest version? Which of the following messages and/or psychology, never before seen on screen, is the take-away?

A). The Cinderella Complex: Women’s Hidden Fear of Independence, a book and concept developed by therapist Colette Dowling in 1981, is thoughtfully examined as an important social issue of our times.

B). A deeper analysis of the “envied and the envying,” à la the 1983 book Cinderella and Her Sisters by Ann and Barry Ulanov.

C). As in the 2013 Cinderella: A Tale of Narcissism and Self-Harm by psychologist Joseph Burgo, we get to find out how living with so much hatred and abuse could actually affect Cinderella.

Just playin’ with ya. No fancy psychology here. This Cinderella is simply a faithful enough adaptation of the original tale—though with one new and oft-repeated message.

And there’s approval from The Village Voice‘s  Stephanie Zacharek:

There’s no empowerment message embedded in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, no ‘Girls can do anything!’ cheerleader vibe. That’s why it’s wonderful. This is a straight, no-chaser fairy story, a picture to be downed with pleasure. It worries little about sending the wrong message and instead trusts us to decode its politics, sexual and otherwise, on our own. And face it — kids have been left on their own to decode the politics of fairy tales for centuries…
Like all Disney films, Cinderella does have a message, and the fact that it’s repeated about eighteen times shouldn’t be held against it. On her deathbed, Cinderella’s mother urges her daughter to ‘Have courage, and be kind.’ If fairy-tale movies need to have messages at all, is this such a bad one?

More from Susan Wloszczyna, rogerebert.com:

…The handling of the heroine might prove to be the film’s most controversial detail. Some might find this Cinderella, whose belief in kindness is meant to be her super power and the key to overcoming those who stand in her way, a little too lacking in spunk and ambition. A goody-two-slippers, as it were. Yet her compassion for others is what makes her special and saves her from simply being a victim in need of rescue.

Kristen Page-Kirby, Washington Post: “…Reaching out might get you hurt. It might make you bitter. It might get you locked in an attic; it might get you a place in a palace. You’re not guaranteed a reward because you had courage and were kind; courage and kindness are themselves the reward.”


Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times:

If you suspected…that Cate Blanchett as the Stepmother just might steal the movie … well, no kidding…

Aside from Blanchett, this ‘Cinderella’ is sweeter than marzipan, pretty as a dressed-up kitten and only occasionally the littlest bit dull.

Katy Waldman, Slate: “[Branagh] manages to de-toxify Disney’s flagship fairy tale without overcorrecting away its prettiness, sincerity, or charm.”

Richard Corliss, Time: “Nearly a century after that black-and-white cartoon short, and 65 years after a ‘classic’ animated feature that missed the mark, Disney finally got Cinderella right — for now and, happily, ever after.”


Sample it yourself below: